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The Ties That Bind

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

After last week's column, you and your partner are ready to get spicy. As one of the most common and multifaceted fetishes, you may be considering BDSM (bondage and discipline/domination and submission/sadism and masochism). Despite what many believe, BDSM is not all heartless beatings in a dungeon.

The topping (dominance) and bottoming (submission) that usually comes with BDSM are actually built around complex, often loving dynamics involving role-playing and the taking and relinquishing of power through the giving or receiving of all kinds of physical sensations, from a good flogging to the light caress of a feather.

The most important part of BDSM is that it is consensual between all parties. Once you've had a heart-to-heart about what you both want, it's time to have a hand-to-buttcheek. But before you charge into the bedroom waving your new flogger, heed some advice.

Choose a safe-word that means "stop" or "time out", allowing you to use "no" as part of your fantasy. Choose a word that isn't a complete mood-killer ("Grandma!") but that you wouldn't say in your playtime ("Dick!"). (Borrow mine—it's "sanctuary"). When this word is said, stop immediately and check in with each other. Using a gag? Give your bottom a bell to ring.

For tying up naughty submissives, use restraints, not neckties or metal handcuffs. Restraints are cuffs made of leather or fabric and, unlike ties and scarves, don't harmfully tighten around wrists and ankles during a healthy struggle (goodvibes.com and babeland.com have many options). Similarly, when walking your little pet, don't put tightening ties around its neck! Choose a professional collar from a sex shop or widen your variety (and lower your price) at a pet store.

Never tie around joints and always make sure two fingers can fit between their body and the restraint. Things like fires and surprise visits from mom happen; safety scissors make sure ropes can be cut quickly and using carabiners to attach restraints to ropes gets you out of a bind in one click. Sportsheets' Under The Bed Restraint System is the perfect beginner's bondage toy. A system of tethers adjust to fit around the underside of any mattress to bring non-tightening, clip-release cuffs to your bottom's wrists and ankles without the need for a headboard (sportsheets.com). Before graduating to rope bondage, read up on technique and safety with titles like Showing You the Ropes by Two Knotty Boys.

If bad bottom needs a good spanking, start with your hand on the well-padded booty. Never hit the tailbone, kidneys or head. When it's time to graduate to tools, your bottom can pick a sensation on the spanking spectrum of "thud" to "sting." Slappers bark without bite with a loud noise but softer slap, crops make an intimidating whistling noise with a strong sensation, paddles provide an impact relative to their rigidity, and floggers sting like hell or deeply thud, based on your technique. Educate yourself as a top to protect your bottom! Read up on potential risks and practice your aim on a pillow first.

Most people know if they'd like to top or bottom (even if it changes with their mood), but don't know how. Read Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy's The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book, which cover the how and why of BDSM. Lady Green's The Sexually Dominant Woman: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners is an approachable introduction that includes a step-by-step guide to your first domination scene. Visual learners will appreciate Whipsmart, an explicit video covering everything from terms to advanced techniques featuring hot straight and lesbian scenes.

For other BDSM sexcessories, try Liberator's Black Label shapes--boosting wedges with built-in restraints allowing for safe and easy bondage and increased access to the G-spot or prostate (liberator.com). JimmyJane's Afterglow Candles allow for safe sensation play as their soy-wax burns at a lower temperature than regular wax, dissolving into a warm, drippable massage oil (jimmyjane.com). Or check out Incoqnito's discreetly wearable Droplet and Blade Necklaces, which are tasteful pieces of jewelry by day and nipple vibrators (Droplet) or a non-lacerating sensation blade by night (incoqnito.com). Can someone say "sanctuary"?

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